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Major Players

The COVID-19 impact on working mothers

Francesca Hernandez, solutions director at Major Players, and working mother of two, lays bare how the COVID-19 pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on women’s careers.

Francesca Hernandez, solutions director, Major Players
Francesca Hernandez, solutions director, Major Players

Earlier this week we celebrated International Women’s Day - an awareness day designed to champion women’s achievements and forge a gender equal world. Ironically, the Major Players 2021 Salary Survey, due to be published later this month, will support the fact that women’s careers have been significantly impacted as a result of the pandemic.

From female graduates and working mums, to women nearing retirement age, the gender pay gap has significantly widened after having made great strides in recent years.

One cohort that has been widely affected by the coronavirus crisis is working mothers; with the ‘motherhood penalty’ ensuring employers continue to deny women pay increases, promotions and access to work. Instead, in many cases, they appear to have been singled out for cutbacks and redundancy.

With schools reopening this week and the working environment continuing to shift once again, what will the long-lasting impact be on mothers in the workplace?

Working mums bear the brunt

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that mothers who were in paid work prior to the first lockdown in 2020 are 47% more likely than fathers to have permanently lost their job or to have quit since that point. It has also been reported that 14% of mothers are more likely to have been furloughed or to have had their hours cut by more than half.

In some instances, women are taking voluntary furlough or redundancy, prioritising childcare over their careers. The impact has been compounded by the creative industry’s reluctance to offer women part-time or flexible work (this fell by 70% in the first 11 weeks of the pandemic), which has meant even fewer opportunities for working mums.

Even before the coronavirus crisis, data from the OECD showed that British women did double the amount of unpaid work at home than men, and this acute inequality has been exacerbated in recent times. As the pandemic continues, mothers now put four more hours a day in to cover childcare and home related issues, on top of trying to maintain their career.

Blurred boundaries between work and home life has also had a disproportionate impact on the mental health of working mothers, with 90% facing a decline in their mental health during the last year (TUC, 2020).

Research from Iceland, the world’s leader in gender equality, demonstrates that despite previous progress, gendered inequalities in work-life balance have re-emerged in the face of the pandemic. The ability that men have to actively take parental leave is fundamentally restricted, meaning that working mothers in the workplace face an institutional and cultural blockade to establishing a successful career.


It’s 2021! We need equal parental leave so parents can decide how they want to raise their children, and stop the so-called “mummy tax” on women’s careers from a childbearing age and beyond.

- Joyce Kremer - President, SheSays London

Addressing the impact

At Major Players, we recognise the need to base hiring decisions on a candidate’s actual (rather than subjectively perceived) ability to flourish in a role. We understand the urgency needed to create diverse workforces and promote inclusivity for all, and that to do this, we need to encourage an objective and standardised recruitment process that is as free from human bias as possible.

We believe that companies should focus on the behaviours that will ensure a candidate will thrive in a role, and not focus on their gender or the need to work flexibly around childcare.

We believe that to move towards this goal and support not only women, but all groups of individuals affected by bias, we must take a multi-faceted approach and employ a range of techniques to broaden our approach and widen the talent pool.

Our proactive approach to supporting clients to reduce bias within the hiring process has included a range of key elements to date. These include our Earn your Worth initiative which removes candidates’ salaries from the hiring process, company-wide unconscious bias training, and most recently our partnership with 10x Psychology to release a new psychometric solution.

Psychometric Workplace Assessment Solution

We saw a clear gap in the creative recruitment industry in using data to help us and our clients make objective hiring decisions.

Our partnership with 10x Psychology has enabled us to harness the power of industry-leading software to incite and sustain the changes needed in recruitment to equalise the hiring journey.

We chose to partner with 10x Psychology because, like us at Major Players, they have put Diversity, Equality & Inclusion at the forefront of what they do. Their accessible mobile-friendly candidate experience enables individuals to highlight their abilities, motivations and personality in their own time. The assessments themselves are short, culturally neutral and pause-able, meaning that candidates can start and stop the assessments as needed.

The assessment focuses on job-related competencies and on aligning entire individuals, from their motivations and personality, to their ability to succeed in a role. This reinforces Major Players' commitment to equality and by offering this psychometric solution across all roles, it helps ensure the right person ends up in the right position every time.

We feel that this psychometric solution is an extremely powerful addition to our Diversity, Equality & Inclusion toolkit. Through improving objectivity and focusing on behaviour, we can help to draw out gender bias from the hiring process, facilitating a broader, more diverse talent pool and improving equality for job-seeking working mothers.

To find out more about Major Players’ approach to creating diverse workforces click here.

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